Drift HD Ghost Video Camera Test
Tempted to stick with the excellent GoPro unit that I know so well, when Drift asked Ultimate MotorCycling to check out its latest camera I ended up with a pleasant surprise – I actually preferred the new unit.
The streamlined bullet shape of the Drift HD Ghost is much more user-friendly than its wide and square competitor. When you stop, the slimline shape of the Ghost slips easily into any pocket. This is convenient – you don’t have to carry it or leave it on the bike.
When mounted to our project Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R 1000’s tank, there’s not a huge difference between the Drift and the GoPro. However, it’s impossible to find a perfectly perpendicular mounting surface on a motorcycle, and so with the weird angles and hard to align attachment places, it is incredibly useful to have a camera that doesn’t stick out much and always has the lens upright and perfectly positioned. That’s where the Drift HD Ghost comes into its own. The lens can rotate through 300 degrees in unlimited increments, so no matter how strange your mounting angle — from upside down to anywhere in between — you then simply twist the lens so that the picture is correct.
Although the mounting options seem more limited than the GoPro range, in reality, the rotating lens negates the need to have a ton of different mounting arms. Provided you mount the HD Ghost solidly, thanks to that rotating lens, the picture is always perfectly upright, no matter what angle you’re forced to mount the camera at.
The built-in screen makes it easy to figure out if you’ve got the lens rotated correctly, and although I found myself lying on my back to see it at one point, it’s definitely a useful feature.
If you prefer, Drift provides a free mobile App (iOS and Android), and by enabling the WiFi on the camera you can then see through the lens on your phone and operate all the Ghost HD functions as needed. That it is WiFi and not Bluetooth is perhaps a little odd, however it does work flawlessly. The hassle is that you have to enable the WiFi each time you turn the camera on, as it forgets every time the camera is turned off, presumably in the interests of battery life.
Bluetooth would automatically re-pair after the initial setup. To use the HD Ghost WiFi, essentially you have to first dig through the menus on the camera first and enable WiFi. Then you go into your phone settings, find the “Ghost HD WiFi” from your available networks, enable it, and then fire up the App. I got used to it quickly, but it’s definitely more steps than I’d like; in the end I tended not to use it much.
The rubberized casing on the Ghost is excellent and the unit feels robust enough to survive a decent shock if you’re unlucky enough to drop it; if worst came to worst, the lens and various other parts are replaceable. It’s also waterproof to three meters so don’t worry about it getting wet.
One niggle is that the heavily rubberized function buttons (Off/On, Menu, Navigation and Start/Stop), although large, are hard to push and engage the function. There’s no real feeling to them and it takes several, determined strong pushes and multiple clicks to activate any function. Having said that, the HD Ghost comes with a pre-paired remote control that can be worn over your jacket sleeve like the world’s ugliest watch. The remote’s dual buttons are huge and easy to work even with thick gloves — it’s a big plus over the competition.
Setting up the HD Ghost requires drilling down through the typical icon driven menus. Although the system is eventually easy to operate once you’re used to the quirks, deciphering the icons requires the instructions to figure out what does what, and how to set up the camera properly.
Don’t try it out in the open as the screen is not easy to see in bright light at the best of times, and the actual function icons on screen are so tiny that they’re borderline impossible to read. But as with other cameras of this ilk, once the Ghost is customized to your requirements it’s basically a one push-button camera. Whether you’re recording video, time-lapse video (awesome), shooting stills, or photo-bursts, it works very, very well.
Ultimately the HD Ghost camera suffers in the same way as its competitors do. They’re all small devices with a lot of options packed into a tiny box, and accessing those functions is not particularly easy or intuitive. But once you’re set up, the Ghost (like the others) is dead easy to operate. However where the Ghost really scores is with its versatile rotating lens and slimline shape; they give it a big advantage over the de facto standard, and it is ideal for motorcycle applications.
The picture quality at 1080P is superb, and the anti-shake system works brilliantly. So deal with the niggles and use the HD Ghost for what it’s intended — recording awesome looking video from just about any weird or wonderful mounting point you can think of. And because of that rotating lens you won’t need a huge array of mounting arms or other peripherals to make awesome video.
For additional information, visit Drift’s website.